The high-profile accused, including Congress president Sonia Gandhi and her son and party vice- president Rahul Gandhi, in the National Herald case, went to the court of Metropolitan Magistrate Lovleen for their first appearance, after carefully preparing for every moment of the day, in the court and outside, and secure in the knowledge that their legal team wouldn’t let them down.
Sonia’s political secretary Ahmed Patel and Congress Rajya Sabha MP and one of the Gandhis’ lawyers Abhishek Manu Singhvi reached the venue early to check the arrangements. Subramanian Swamy, the complainant, was already there along with his wife and lawyer Roxana Swamy.
While senior lawyers like former Union Law Minister Kapil Sibal, Singhvi and criminal lawyer R S Cheema, all of who appeared in court today, had repeatedly assured their clients, collectively as well as individually, that they would certainly be granted bail – one reason the bail bonds were taken to court and furnished within minutes of the magistrate granting them bail, it was decided not to take any chances.
Sources told The Indian Express that the lawyers were “ready with petitions for immediately filing appeals before the Sessions court” in case the Metropolitan Magistrate turned down their bail pleas.
Sources said it was decided as “part of strategy” not to seek exemption from personal appearance. This was politically significant as political leaders can’t be seen appearing repeatedly before the court as the case could drag on.
Sources in the party said that the idea was to ensure that no signal should get out of the Patiala House court premises that the legal procedure has gone against Gandhis. Anything which was not absolutely safe was avoided.
If the bail was granted but personal exemption was not given against Swamy’s expected opposition, the entire exercise of hyping the event would have boomeranged. It was decided, after the setback from High court, to honour the summons and get bail.
So, lawyers Singhvi and Sibal did not raise the issue at all. This surprised Swamy. However, he told The Indian Express, “I would not have objected if they had asked for it.”
“Our lawyers were carrying the necessary papers for appealing before the appropriate higher court in case the Metropolitan Magistrate decided against accepting the bail pleas of Mrs Sonia Gandhi and others. As for not seeking exemption, it was felt that every time they (the accused) come to court, it would only help us in exposing the BJP government, which is behind the case filed by Subramanian Swamy,” said a senior Congress leader, who was present inside court today.
Although there was speculation, the party had already shot down the idea of not opting for bail. Veterans including Motilal Vora, A K Antony, Ahmed Patel, Mallikarjun Kharge and Ghulam Nabi Azad were of the opinion that “bravado” of any kind had to be avoided.
After the court case, Swamy was furious when asked if the Congress has been successful in turning the event into political victory, “Not at all. Everybody whom I have met including police officer in the court to a jamadar was happy to see the Gandhis appearing in the court, standing in a corner in the court room and responding to call of “Haazir ho”, he said.
Meanwhile, there are indications that Sonia Gandhi and others could move the Supreme Court to challenge some observations made by Delhi High Court Judge Sunil Gaur in his December 7 judgment, while dismissing the pleas filed by Sonia and others against summons issued to them by the Metropolitan Magistrate.
The Congress leaders have been advised that they should move the Apex Court to challenge, among others, the repeated usage of word “criminality” in the High Court judgment.
In his judgment, Justice Gaur, while refusing to accept the petitioners’ argument, had referred to some “questionable” actions of the Congress leaders and observed that, “… All this smacks of criminality”.
When asked about the possibility of moving the SC, a senior lawyer associated with the case said, “Nothing has been finalised yet. Some of us are of the opinion that these observations should be challenged, but a final decision is still to be taken.”